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Ja Morant: A star on the rise

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This season’s NBA has so far thrilled and entertained a lot of fans all around the world. Over the years, the NBA has always presented the perfect platform for young aspiring Pro-Basketball players who have either lived up to their potential or slide down in their individual careers. This season has not been an exception. A shining light is gradually emerging from the team as not just a rookie but a player who possesses the qualities and potential to become a future Basketball legend and could even potentially surpass All-time greats like LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan etc. He is no other than Memphis Grizzlies’ young rookie Ja Morant who has made waves on the court for his impressive performances this season.

Here, we profile the young Memphis Grizzlies’ rookie and take a look at his exploits through his numbers so far this season.

Morant’s Pre-NBA career

The young 6ft 2in rookie was born in Augusta, Georgia as Temetrius Jamel “Ja” Morant to Tee and Jamie Morant. His father, Tee was a former Basketball player who played for Claflin University and teams abroad. He also was a teammate of former NBA star Ray Allen in school. Ja Morant’s actual journey to the NBA began during his High School days at Crestwood High School in South Carolina where he played in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit with the South Carolina Hornets where he once played a season with New Orleans Pelicans’ forward Zion Williamson and Crestwood. At a young age, he left the South Carolina Hornets as the team’s all-time leading scorer with 1,679 points with a career-high 47 points against Sumter High School.

He also averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game in his final two seasons at Crestwood. As a result of his incredible performances, he earned South Carolina Class 3A All-State honors in his final two seasons at Crestwood. He also finished high school as a 3-time All-Region Most Valuable Player (MVP). This was an early indication of his talent and rapid development in the game of Basketball.

He was later offered a scholarship to play for Murray State. He finished his debut game for Murray State with seven points and 11 assists in a 118–61 victory over Brescia University of the NAIA.

In his first year at Murray State, Morant recorded his first career double-double on December 12, 2017, by scoring 10 points, pulling down 12 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists in a 69–55 loss to Saint Louis. He also delivered his first triple-double a few days later on December 28, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds, and an amazing 14 assists in an 80–52 win over Eastern Illinois.

At the end of his time at Murray State, Morant became the very first NCAA player to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a season. He also won several accolades such as the 2019 NCAA season assists leader, 2019 Lute Olson Award, 2019 Bob Cousy Award, 2019 OVC Player of the year during his Murray State stint. He was also a two-time First-team All-OVC, 2019 OVC Tournament MVP and the 2018 OVC All-Newcomer Team.

After losing the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament final with Murray State, Morant decided to enter the 2019 NBA draft, where he was not surprising selected second overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies.

His NBA career so far in numbers

Morant made his NBA debut starting in a 101–120 loss to the Miami Heat. He ended the game with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. As it stands, Ja Morant is leading rookies in points per game with 25 points per game while shooting 53%.  He is averaging 7.1 assists per game with 1.9 steals per game.

His biggest performance came last week when he scored 25 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining during Memphis Grizzlies’ 107-106 win over Utah Jazz, a game which saw former Grizzlies guard Mike Conley return to Memphis for the first time since his summer trade to Utah. The Point Guard also contributed 8 assists and outshined Conley who struggled in the game despite being a rookie. He hit 9-of-22 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line with four rebounds, one steal, two triples and two turnovers in 30 minutes.

This was a huge statement considering the fact that he wasn’t expected to hit these strides at this stage of the season and his NBA career. However, this wasn’t the first game he stole the show. His great performances began when he scored the highest points (30) in the 134-133 OT win over the Brooklyn Nets. In all, He has recorded the highest points in other 5 games so far this season (16 points vrs. Lakers, 24 points vs. Phoenix Suns, 23 points vs. Rockets, 23 points at the Hornets and 25 points vs. Utah Jazz). He has also achieved the highest points and assists in a single game on 5 occasions. In total, he has 18.9 points (Highest in the team), 3.4 (150+) rebounds, 6.0 assists (Highest in the team) and a Player Efficiency Rating of 18.38. He currently has a scoring Efficiency of 1.231 and a Shooting Efficiency of 0.50. These are great returns from a rookie against top NBA Championship contenders.

It might be early days yet but these numbers only prove that he is on an upward trajectory and is gradually becoming an important figure not only in Memphis but in the NBA in general. At this rate, he could become the “top guy” in Memphis and also the key to the Grizzlies advancing to the playoffs this season.

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